Crimson’s Creative Challenge #52: The world turned on its head

CCC#52

The ground was autumn-crisp with leaves despite the heat. The oaks along the rivers’ edge black fingers, bare as winter.

‘Not right,’ muttered Clem, knocking the underbrush with his boot.

A fir cone tumbled through the dead leaves and came to rest against a fleshy crescent of Maid’s Bane fungus. Bluebell spikes shivered.

‘World’s turned on its head,’ said Clem.

The sheepdog, Tab, looked up at his master, uncertain.

Gramma Cora – all gums, mottled scalp and whiskers – had told tales when Clem was small. When winter takes summer’s hand, when spring lifts her skirts and dances autumn’s jig … He frowned how did that old rhyme end?

Tab came suddenly to heel, his flank quivering against Clem’s leg.

‘What is it, lad?’

A feather of snow fell on the back of his neck. Soon the ground was white, the air a haze.

‘The Final Winter shall fall,’ he whispered.

***

Written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge. It’s a pleasure to join in this week to help Crispina celebrate a year of CCC. Do visit here to join in – it’s huge fun.

Three Line Tales: By the pricking of my thumbs

a cathedral ruin

The battle was over. Mab didn’t know which side was the victor, which the loser and she cared even less. Static fizzed through her wrists, conducted along the nerve endings to settle beneath her thumbnails – the familiar signal evil was approaching.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ said Moll, dusting ash from her sleeve. ‘I was watching the firestorm. Beautiful, the way it cleanses a city.’ She looked round her, at the fallen masonry, the ivy snaking over graffitied walls. ‘Nice. Oh, by the way, Cass won’t be joining us.’

Mab sighed. The two witches just didn’t have the same ring.

***

Written for Three Line Tales.

Despite loving the photo, I wasn’t going to take part in this challenge after reading Jane Dougherty’s TLT – Jane had done such a good job, there could be no better interpretation.

Then for some reason, the Macbeth witches sprung to mind. I thought the derelict cloister would be an appropriate meeting place for their modern counterparts – slightly more sheltered than a ‘blasted heath’.

There’s an interesting analysis of the witches here.

The title is, of course a quote, from the play.

What Pegman Saw: Loxton Crook

The site was out on Karoonda Highway. On one side, the green swathe of Murray Barrandura’s vineyard, on the other a dusty khaki patchwork of Bush.

Two vehicles blocked the junction for Kingston Road – one I recognised as Murray’s faded blue ute. The other was Lachy Tuner’s Hilux.

‘Murray, Lachlan.’ I slammed the car door and came to stand beside them.

‘Rum thing,’ said Murray, scratching his thinning curls. ‘Not seen since Grandfather’s time.’

‘1930, the last one,’ said Lachy.

‘Did you see the flash?’ I said. ‘Lit up the sky like fireworks. Lucky it didn’t hit closer to town.’ The meteorite was the size of my fist, the surface like pumice flecked with chips of silica. ‘Made quite a hole.’

‘People got crook then.’ Murray sucked at his cheeks.

‘In 1930? That was flu. Meteorites don’t cause flu epidemics,’ scoffed Lachy.

Murray’s gaze drifted towards town, to the cluster of twinkling streetlights.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week, we are in Loxton, South Australia.

Notes

Back in 1930, a meteor shattered in the sky above Karoonda. The pieces weighed a total of 92 lbs.

Many Aboriginal cultures see meteors as harbingers, warnings of coming death or signs of evil spirits coming to suck water from the land. Read more here.

In Australian slang, crook means ill, likely to die.

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #14: Four and twenty blackbirds

Marsh Road

CCC#14

‘Blackbirds!’ called Aunty Evie, hopping excitedly from foot to foot.

‘They not blackbirds, dumbo,’ said Cass. ‘They’re crows.’ He limped on towards the telegraph poles, lame foot dragging on the cracked road. ‘Twice the size of sodding blackbirds.’

‘Leave her be,’ I mumbled. ‘Every black bird is a blackbird to her.’

She was singing a nursery rhyme now, reedy, rushy voice a mix of adult and child.

‘Simple,’ muttered Cass. ‘Brain like a bag of candy floss.’

Up ahead, Evie struggled through long dried grass, hand outstretched to a boundary fence. Beyond, the field was already dull, waiting to sleep.

Cass pointed with his cane. ‘Stop her, will you.’

I saw what she was reaching for – a row of wings pinned to the wire, flapping a black rainbow in the wind.

Somewhere we’d taken a wrong turn.

***

Written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge#14. See here to join in.

Friday Fictioneers: Red sky


PHOTO PROMPT © Renee Heath

There used to be a saying about shepherds and skies – do you know it?

I sit awake nights, trying to remember the sky Before.

The nights the wolves grow brave, snuffling round camp with their hollow bellies and frosted eyes. The nights cold shoos the black bears from the mountains and I sit vigil with my rusted rifle, cradling our last shells like a miser with his gold.

Memories of the world Before are slipping from me, you see, turning to dreams, to fictions. Only that rhyme proves the sky wasn’t always red.

Tell me you remember it.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic and write a tale to suit. Visit here to join in the fun.

What Pegman Saw : Gimcracks and Gewgaws

Image: Google Street View

The shop bell sounded.

Quiver stepped through the low doorway, tall frame bunched. The winter sun sagged low in the sky, but the crowded little shop must be dark on the brightest summer day. He ran an eye over a clowder of prowling china cats, carved wooden spoons and printed tea towels.

‘Gimcracks and gewgaws,’ he breathed.

Movement caught his eye. In a display case by the window were globs of amber, the motes of a past age caught in each. He peered closer at one, a clump the colour of boiled honey, a tiny fly caught at its heart. He waited, patient as a stone.

A wing twitched.

‘A conjuring trick,’ said a voice from behind him. ‘But it helps them sell. And the rent must be paid.’

‘Cheap,’ muttered Quiver. He turned to the figure behind the counter, stout and greasy as ever. ‘Hello, Pounce. We must talk.’

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we visit Tallinn, Estonia. See here to join in, share and read other stories.

Note

Gimcrack and gewgaw mean similar things – gimcrack being something showy but badly made, gewgaw being a showy, trifling thing. So Quiver is really repeating himself here, I just liked the sound of these peculiar words together.

FFfAW: Bittersweet


This week’s photo prompt is provided by Jodi McKinney. Thank you Jodi!

‘What about this one, Gamma?’ Solly held out a glossy red berry.

Tan looked up from her own basket of fruit. ‘Bittersweet. Eat a handful of those and you’ll be running to the privy for a night and a day.’

Solly let the baubles fall, crushing them with the toe of her boot.

The sun was high, heat building under Tan’s arms, gathering in the channel of her spine. She closed her eyes for a moment, focused on the breeze, how it carried the scent of the distant shore, the quarrel of gulls.

The lights went out twenty years ago today. How had anyone survived those early days? How had she? The loss of all they’d known, all the comforts they’d taken for granted …

‘This is a funny one, Gamma – all spiky.’

She opened her eyes to find another berry under her nose, Solly’s eyes sparkling like fireworks.

After all they’d suffered, here was her silver lining.

*********************************

Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

Bittersweet is a member of the nightshade family with glossy red berries that can cause sickness or even death.